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How do you keep a lake skating rink smooth?

lake rink

We plan to clear a spot on our lake for skating. How do we keep the ice smooth and prevent it from getting bumpy?
—Tammy Luscombe

It will help to clean off the snow regularly, avoid skating when it’s mild (which can chew up the ice), and resurface the rink periodically.

To resurface, you’ll have to flood your ice. You can buy flooding tools, make your own (there are lots of designs on the Internet), or just use a plain old hose or bucket. Resurfacing is simpler if you have running water—and you can get that water down to the lake easily. If not, you can make a hole in the ice with an auger, and use a pump to draw out the water.

Before you resurface, clear off all the snow—every little bit. If there’s any left on the ice when you flood it, you can bet it will clump up, turn into a frozen lump and, come skating-party time, cause you to trip and fall (probably while everyone is watching). A shovel is fine to clear a small rink, say, six by 12 metres. For a larger rink, you’ll probably want a snowblower, or the shovels—and help—of several neighbours. Flood the rink at night, when it’s clear and the air is still (wind can cause ripples to form), and use only a thin layer of water, just enough to fill in blade grooves.

Of course, make sure the ice is thick enough before you start tromping around on it. It should be at least 20 cm thick; test a few spots with an auger. If you have any doubts, keep off. Stay inside and play a little table hockey instead.